Environmental Crime Report Shows Damage Far Worse Than Estimated

"The rise of environmental crime across the world is deeply troubling. The vast sums of money generated from these despicable crimes are fueling insecurity and keeping highly sophisticated international criminal gangs in business," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. "It is essential the world acts now to combat this growing menace before it is too late."

A new report on environmental crime from the United Nations Environment Programme and INTERPOL indicates the cost of these crimes is 26 percent larger than previous estimates, having grown to some $91 billion to $258 billion (U.S. dollars) today, well above previous estimates of $70-213 billion in 2014. The report, titled "The Rise of Environmental Crime," was released June 4 on the eve of World Environment Day and shows how weak laws and poorly funded security forces have been unable to prevent international criminal networks and armed rebels from profiting from the illicit trade.

"The rise of environmental crime across the world is deeply troubling. The vast sums of money generated from these despicable crimes are fueling insecurity and keeping highly sophisticated international criminal gangs in business," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said. "It is essential the world acts now to combat this growing menace before it is too late."

According to the report, environmental crime dwarfs the illegal trade in small arms, which is valued at about $3 billion. Environmental crime is the world's fourth largest criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, and the amount of money lost to environmental crimes is far more than the money spent by international agencies combating it -- it is 10,000 times greater than the $20-30 million they spend.

"Environmental crime is growing at an alarming pace. The complexity of this type of criminality requires a multi-sector response underpinned by collaboration across borders. Through its global policing capabilities, INTERPOL is resolutely committed to working with its member countries to combat the organized crime networks active in environmental crime," said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

Environmental crime includes the illegal trade in wildlife, corporate crime in the forestry sector, the illegal exploitation and sale of minerals, illegal fisheries, the trafficking of hazardous waste, and carbon credit fraud. In the last decade, it has risen by at least 5-7 percent annually, two to three times faster than global GDP.

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